By Matt Kirkpatrick
On January 3, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) ordered Equifax, Inc. and TransUnion and their subsidiaries to pay more than $17.6 million in restitution to consumers and $5.5 million in fines to the CFPB. According to Director Richard Cordray, “TransUnion and Equifax deceived consumers about the usefulness of the credit scores they marketed, and lured consumers into expensive recurring payments with false promises[.]”
TransUnion and Equifax are two of the “big three” national credit reporting agencies that collect consumer credit information, such as current and past creditor information, payment histories, debt load, late payments, collections activity, and bankruptcies. Credit reporting agencies then sell consumer information in the form of credit reports and credit scores, among other products. Lenders and other businesses purchase the credit information and use it to determine whether to lend to or do business with consumers, and on what terms.
The CFPB action found that Equifax and TransUnion violated the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act, first, by falsely representing that the credit scores they marketed and sold to consumers were the same scores that lenders used to make credit decisions. In fact, when making credit decisions, lenders typically did not use the same scores as those sold to consumers. The credit bureaus also violated the Act by falsely marketing their credit scores and services like credit monitoring to consumers as being “free” or costing “$1”. In fact, the products were only free or $1 during a 7- or 30-day trial period. After that, unless consumers cancelled the service during the trial period, Equifax, TransUnion, and their subsidiaries automatically charged recurring monthly fees, typically $16 per month or more.
The CFPB also found that Equifax violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirement that each credit bureau provide consumers with a free credit report once each year upon request.
Consumers may request their free credit reports through the Federal Trade Commission website at https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/get-my-free-credit-report. Equifax violated the FCRA by making consumers view Equifax advertisements in order to obtain their reports.
For more information, the CFPB press release is available at:
The full text of the consent order against Equifax is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_Equifax-consent-order.pdf.
The full text of the consent order against TransUnion is available at:
Matt Kirkpatrick’s practice focuses on consumer litigation, insurance policyholder coverage actions, and financial elder abuse claims.